Jana Pittman-Tamsyn Lewis 'BitchFight'

Pittman-Lewis fight must end, says Boyle
Sam Edmund, Shaun Phillips and Ron Reed

TRACK legend Raelene Boyle has slammed feuding athletes Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Lewis, demanding they bury their public stoush before the Commonwealth Games.

Marathon great Steve Moneghetti backed Boyle, saying the sport was suffering.
Boyle, a seven-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and triple Olympic silver medallist, said it was time for authorities to intervene.

“I think the powers that be should step in and say, ‘C’mon girls, think about the big picture and not just yourselves’,” she said.

“Tamsyn seems to be the one continuing it. She needs to stop and try and focus on doing something at these Games.”

The ill-feeling between the former best friends dates back to the 2004 Athens Olympics when Lewis questioned Pittman’s buildup to the Games and the drama around her campaign.

Pittman responded by saying she would prefer to be known for her performance on the track rather than as a “bikini babe”.

She was referring to a photo shoot Lewis did for a men’s magazine.

On Monday, Lewis referred to her 400m rival on radio as a bitch after Pittman said there was no competition in the event.

The flare-up has divided the athletics community with less than seven weeks before the Games.

Lewis and Pittman will be teammates in Australia’s 4 x 400m relay team.

They were part of Australia’s gold-medal 400m quartet in Manchester four years ago.

Pittman would not comment yesterday.

Boyle said the bitter slanging match would hurt the athletics team unless it was stamped out quickly.

“It’s not good for the sport. You would never see this in swimming,” she said.

"What they need to do is let their feet do the talking and stop the verbal, and as for Tamsyn talking about it on air, maybe it keeps you in a job, I don’t know.

"Get them to focus on the Games.

"I don’t think it’s a necessarily bad thing for Jana because she’ll get her back up and she’ll make sure she doesn’t let Tamsyn beat her.

“Jana is the more talented of the two girls.”

Moneghetti, mayor of the Commonwealth Games village, said the women needed a good talking to, if not necessarily in the same room.

"If this happened at the village I’d pull them in and say, ‘Look, this is damaging the sport. If you want to have this fight, don’t have it in public because it makes our sport look bad’.

"If they don’t get on in a month’s time, I don’t care, but right now is not a good time to let the public know you don’t get on.

"We’re in a fantastic phase with the biggest team ever announced yet the focus is on this fight.

“They’ve got to say the Commonwealth Games and the athletics team are bigger than us, let’s get on with the job.”

Moneghetti said Lewis should drop media commitments such as the Triple-M program where she made the bitch comment now that she was a member of the team.

Lewis’s mother Carolyn said she regretted her daughter’s choice of one word, but otherwise backed her to the hilt.

“The only thing I’ve counselled Tamsyn on . . . is that she said the word b-i-t-c-h,” Mrs Lewis said.

“Other than that I think she is a lovely daughter.”

Mrs Lewis, who represented Australia in the high jump at the 1962 Commonwealth Games, said it would motivate Lewis. “Tamsyn is like her father (Greg, an Olympic and Commonwealth sprinter). It will stir her on,” she said.

But Lewis’s former coach Jackie Byrnes wasn’t as glowing.

“This started when Tamsyn was 15 and now she’s 27,” Byrnes said.

Olympic motivator Laurie Lawrence said he was willing to try to sort out the feud. “They’ve got to lay their cards on the table,” Lawrence said.

“Both girls are terrific kids, but things can get out of hand.”

Olympic legend Cathy Freeman wouldn’t be drawn on the matter, saying both were great athletes and she wished them the best of luck.

But the 400m gold medallist revealed she would act as a mentor for Lewis as the Games draw near.

“Tamsyn Lewis’s mum actually asked me to warm up with her daughter,” Freeman said.

“I think the idea is to just help her and be a calming influence for her.”

Taming of shrews
Ron Reed

DESPITE finding room for a record 107 athletes in the Games team, Athletics Australia haven’t quite finished the job.

They still have to name two captains, one for the men and one for the women. It will be done on February 17.
With such a large squad and with so many young and inexperienced competitors, these definitely will not be regarded as token appointments.

A lot of guidance and encouragement will be required from the older hands, four of whom will be at their fourth Commonwealth Games and seven at their third.

If the Games were starting tomorrow, though, the biggest problem for whoever gets the women’s job wouldn’t be with the kids, it would be with two of those veterans.

The increasingly bitter spat between high-profile runners Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Lewis would test the diplomatic skills of any team leader.

It might have begun as a bit of a motivational wind-up between two outspoken, highly strung individuals, in which case no great harm was being done – as Lewis said, at least it had people talking about the sport.

But then she upped the ante on radio by referring to “the catfight and the bitchfight” and called Pittman a bitch, and now Pittman is describing the team atmosphere as “evil”.

Lewis’s attempts to divert the flak – she claims the remarks were not meant to sound vindictive – won’t wash.

Whatever she did mean, the words were in very poor taste and the whole standoff has become unacceptable and embarrassing.

It is bringing the sport into disrepute and Athletics Australia should be reading the riot act. Perhaps it has.

Pittman appears to have landed in the middle of this unedifying episode for the same reason the notoriously gaffe-prone Arthur Tunstall used to when he was the Commonwealth Games boss.

It was often not what he was trying to say that caused trouble, but the way he said it. Similarly, when Pittman said she didn’t think there was any competition, it could be – and apparently was – construed as meaning Lewis wasn’t in her league as a runner.

Almost certainly she meant to say that there was no personal animosity, at least on her part.

For Jana, though, there seems to be no such thing as a big event without a big drama to go with it, and this time she’s outdone herself – there are two, this row plus her mysterious loss of form.

If that’s still the case in six weeks’ time, good luck to whoever has to settle it all down. Hopefully, that’s enough time for it to die a natural death, but the damage may already be too great.

AA chief executive Danny Corcoran said that in general the two captains would have a lot to do, both in mentoring youngsters and helping management.

“It will take a special person, someone who can compete at the highest level and still find time to help those who are less experienced,” he said.

Marathon runner Kerryn McCann, 31, walker Jane Saville, 31, and long-jumper Bronwyn Thompson, 28, would be among the candidates, as would sprinter Patrick Johnson, 33, distance runner Craig Mottram, 25, walker Nathan Deakes, 28, triple-jumper Andrew Murphy, 36, and hammer thrower Stuart Rendell, 33.

Catfight may end in knockout
By Jenny McAsey
February 10, 2006

TAMSYN Lewis and Jana Pittman have been warned they will be dumped from Australia’s Commonwealth Games team if their war of words erupts again.

The Australian Commonwealth Games Association sent letters to both athletes yesterday to let them know further outbursts would not be tolerated.

ACGA chief executive Perry Crosswhite is annoyed about the public stoush, which escalated this week when Lewis referred to Pittman as a “bitch”.

“I have not been happy and neither is John Devitt our chef de mission,” Crosswhite said. “It shouldn’t happen.”

In the letter, Crosswhite said the two were breaching a team agreement.

“They are members of the team and they have responsibilities and we are bringing those to their attention,” he said.

“In the agreement, which they have signed, it says they are not to criticise or make comments on their team-mates.”

The agreement came into force on Tuesday, when both were named in the 107-member track and field team for the March games. Pittman has been selected in the 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay, while Lewis will run the 400m flat and the relay.

While Athletics Australia had earlier instructed them to stop making damaging public comments, that body has no power to enforce orders. However, the ACGA does have authority over athletes once they are in the Games team.

“All members of the team have to abide by the team agreement. If they don’t abide by it they can be dismissed from the team. They have been made aware of that in the letter,” Crosswhite said.
“You can comment on your own performance and preparation and all those sorts of things but you do not comment on the performances of your fellow team members.”

Lewis and Pittman raced over 400m at the national selection trials in Sydney last Friday night. Lewis came second behind New Zealander Jane Arnott, while Pittman struggled home last.

Lewis then revelled in beating Pittman, saying she had wanted to beat the “bitch”. Pittman responded that Lewis was creating a poisonous atmosphere in the Commonwealth Games team.

Pittman has since told news outlets she won’t be making public comments until the Games.

Lewis, who has media deals with Melbourne radio stations, may still be on the publicity circuit but will have to closely watch her words.

On radio on Wednesday, Lewis attacked another Australia team member, Irish Olympic silver medallist, Sonia O’Sullivan, criticising her selection for the Commonwealth Games.

Pittman, who has been troubled by knee soreness this week, resumed training yesterday.

Her poor performance in Sydney has been put down to fatigue from over-training rather than any virus or illness.

Under the guidance of coach and fiance, Chris Rawlinson, her training will be modified as she peaks for the Commonwealth Games.

Pittman’s next run will be in the 400m hurdles at the Athletics Australia Invitational on February 18 at the new track laid at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Great Britain’s Olympic relay gold medallists Marlon Devonish and Mark Lewis-Francis, who are training in Sydney and competing for England, have confirmed they will run in the 100m at the event.

The Australian